“Cyber Monday has historically proved to be an accurate bellwether for the overall performance of the online holiday shopping season. While the year-over-year growth rates for individual online spending days vary quite significantly throughout the season, during the past few years Cyber Monday has been within a few percentage points of the final holiday season growth rate,” says ComScore about Black Friday. While we’re used to people shopping online at work, it’s staggering to imagine that number extrapolated across the continent, but that’s what Cyber Monday (dubbed thus in 2005 by the National Retail Federation) is, the day people come back to work from Thanksgiving holiday and, maximizing office resources, shop. As the ComScore quote reveals, this, more than anything, predicts how holiday sales will go.

Traditionally, Cyber Monday sales average 23 percent growth. Last year’s Cyber Monday sales grew 21 percent. This year, Cyber Monday sales were better than expected, though reports were of mixed success. ComScore reports that Cyber Monday 2008 spending was up 15 percent, totaling $846 million dollars. More importantly, it was the second heaviest online shopping day on record.

While Thursday and Friday were staggeringly slow, online sales took off over the weekend, as retailers, alarmed at the slow holiday kickoff, continued to cut their prices. Saturday and Sunday spending showed a 19 percent increase. After Thursday and Friday’s flatline, looking at the weekend numbers is rather amazing.

Still, with the vast price slashing we’ve seen, even as buying continues, profit margins remain slim. Despite the strengthening numbers, ComScore expects zero percent growth in total online holiday purchases. So far this year, holiday online shopping has netted $12.03 billion dollars; ComScore expects it to match last year’s $29.2 for the total season.

By Mark Alvarez